Strung

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Chapter 26. - Black Coffee

“I see that you’ve brought a guest.” Fitz grinned, crossing his arms in front of himself as we walked up to the front door of my parent’ house. “This should be the most entertaining Saturday we’ve had since you dropped out of college!”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m expecting you to be on your best behavior!” I whispered into his ear as he leaned down to give me a hug.

“What for? You know mom will be all over him!” He chuckled and pulled back to extend a hand to Lukas, who was standing patiently behind me. “Nice to meet you, man. I’ve heard a ton about you!”

Lukas would’ve had to be blind to miss the way my brother’s sly gaze flickered over to me when he said that. Combined with the life-sized cardboard cutout of him in my room and the paintings I’ve had all over my studio, I was pretty sure Lukas had an accurate idea of my obsession.

“As have I. Fitz, right?” Lukas said, giving my brother one of his million dollar smiles.

My brother blinked twice, before pulling his hand back. “Erm… Yeah… Yeah, that’s me.” He stepped back, moving out of the way of my parents.

“This is my mom, Adelaide Grey-“ I motioned toward my mother, who basically launched herself at Lukas, nearly knocking him back. Way to keep it cool, mom – I thought, but could hardly blame her, as my reaction was just about the same. “-and my dad, Richard.”

“Mr. Grey.” My dad said, frowning as he shook Lukas’ hand, who – to his credit – didn’t seem at all taken aback by my father’s cold demeanor.

“Let’s go inside, shall we? We have breakfast waiting, I hope you’re hungry!” Mom, always the warm one in the family ushered as along, closing the front door.

We piled into the dining room, and I offered my seat to Lukas. “I’ll go grab an extra set of plates.”

“Grab a beer too, Londie-bug! I think we’re going to need it!” Fitz yelled after me, making me roll my eyes.

“So, why exactly are you here, boy?” My father started, making me swirl around to shoot him a warning glare.

“Make that vodka, sis!” Fitz winked.

I practically ran to the kitchen, grabbed everything I needed, and made it back in record time, only to witness the awkward, tense silence in the room. My father was turning more and more red by the minute, while my mother gawked at the blonde rock star in awe. And my brother? Well, he was just amused out of his socks.

“He was just giving me a ride, dad. I thought it would’ve been rude not to invite him along to breakfast.” I said, shrugging as I took a seat between my mom and Lukas.

“And where is your car exactly, that he has to give you a ride on Saturday morning?” My father shot back, raising his brows.

I felt an undeniable blaze run through my entire body, coloring me tomato red. Suddenly, my hands seemed like the most interesting thing in the world, and I kept my eyes set straight on them.

My mother leaned over, poking me in the side with my elbow. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. We all know you two aren’t just friend.” She said calmly, taking a sip of her orange juice. “What is the word for it these days? Friends with benefits?”

I felt Lukas chuckle next to me, while I desperately reached for the eggs. “Let’s eat this before it gets cold, shall we?” And with that, I dumped a huge load on Lukas’ plate. “You like eggs, don’t you?” I whispered after I realized I had no idea if he even wanted any.

His smile was reassuring, his golden eyes dancing with amusement. “Love ’em.”

“Great!” I nodded, passing the bowl along. “Fitz, how’s work?”

When my brother didn’t reply, I looked up, only to see his cocked brow. “Are we done interrogating you? Because I still have some questions.”

With the unshakeable confidence of a saint, Lukas leaned back on his chair. “Ask away.”

“Are you dating my sister? Or just stringing her along?”

I swallowed. “Coffee, anyone?”

“I’ll take some!” Mom nodded.

“Black.” Dad said.

“Anything for you?” I asked Lukas, who looked so breathtaking in the morning light, I had to catch my breath.

“Sure. I’ll leave the flavoring up to you.” He smiled.

“You’re a fan of coffee?”

Leave it to my brother to stomp all over a moment that could’ve been special. “Eat your damn eggs, Fitzwilliam!” I threw over my shoulder as I headed to the kitchen.

My brother called after me. “What about my coffee, Londie-bug?”

“Get it for yourself!”

“Kids!” Mom scolded, then added in a lower voice. “I swear, Lukas, they’re not usually this bad. I’m not sure where everyone has left their manners this morning.”

“You still haven’t answered the question.” My father pointed out, and I would’ve lied if I said I didn’t stop what I was doing to eavesdrop on Lukas’ answer.

I held my breath as I listened to the sound of rustling coming from the dining room before Lukas spoke. “I like London. I like her very much.” Melt. Fucking melt! I sighed, feeling like my heart was going to leap out of my chest.

Sure, I knew he liked me. I mean, he kept taking me on dates, he wasn’t ashamed to show me off next to himself… We’ve slept together. On multiple occasions… But knowing it and hearing it from his mouth were two very different things.

“Is she your girlfriend, though?” Fitz pressed, and I had to restrain myself from going out there and strangling my own brother.

“I haven’t asked her yet, no.” Ouch. “But she’s the closest thing I’ve had to it, so in my eyes, she might as well be. Labels are irrelevant.”

“So you’re not hooking up with other girls on the side?”

Okay, perhaps my brother wasn’t so bad after all. I leaned closer, straining my ears to hear over the whistle of the coffee machine. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business… But no, I’m not.”

I grinned. Jackpot!

“Well, that’s a relief.” Fitz noted. “Is there anything else you’d like me to grill him on, Londie-bug?” My brother asked, raising his voice a little louder this time. “We all know you are listening.

Fuck. “I’m good!” I called, slapping myself in the forehead. Now Lukas knows for sure that I was certifiably insane, and so was my entire family.

“Let me tell you something about labels, son…” I heard my father’s stern voice, and blissfully, the coffees were done at the same time for me to rejoin my family – and Lukas – in the dining room.

“Dad, I think that’s quite enough.”

“Let him be the judge of that. The boy can speak for himself.” My father raised a brow at me, as he took out his phone and pulled up something, before handing it to Lukas. I was on pins and needles, peeking over his wide shoulder to be able to see what dad was showing him.

As soon as the comments started loading, I wished I hadn’t.

‘It’s a shame he’s settling for someone like her’

‘She’s ugly af’

‘Go back home to your rich mommy, and leave the band alone, whore!’

‘What kind of name is London anyways?!’

I gulped. I was told these kinds of comments would get easier to ignore over time. But they hadn’t…

“People hate our daughter.” My father said, his voice lower this time. “People who have never met her, don’t know the first thing about her, write nasty things like that under her pictures. And this is all because of you.”

“Dad…” I started, but he held up a hand.

“We had to hire security to follow her around because the same people are camping outside of her home. Outside of her studio… She now can’t walk to the corner store by herself without being attacked, or getting her picture taken.” He went on. “This is the sacrifice she is making because she thinks herself in love with you.”

I gasped, and my mother’s hand landed on my father’s shoulder. “Richard, there’s really no need.”

“There is, Adele.” Dad sighed. “Because if this little shit is lying, and he is planning on tossing her to the side once he gets bored, I want him to know what ruin he is leaving behind.”

I swallowed hard. “Dad…”

Lukas’ arm went around the back of my chair, his hand stroking small patterns on my back. “I’m aware what fame is like, sir.” He said confidently. “I’ve lived my life in the spotlight for quite some time, and so have my bandmates and their families. Human cruelty is not a foreign concept to me.”

I had no idea how my father could mistake the man speaking for a boy. Lukas excluded so much charisma, so much power, and authority, one would’ve had to be blind to miss the aura of experience around him. No, Lukas was no boy. He had more experience and life behind him than most people twice his age.

“I know exactly what she’s going through. But I also know that the only thing we can do is wait. It’s a disappointing answer, but we just have to wait for it to pass. Once people realize she’s not a phase, they’ll change their approach.”

Was he saying what I thought he was saying? I blinked at him, but Lukas didn’t meet my gaze. He handed my father’s phone back to him, who seemed visibly calmer now.

“Let’s eat. Before this all gets cold.” Dad said quietly, and the tension in the air lightened.

“How is your book coming along, mom?” Fitz asked, and my mother began telling us about her newest idea and the first five chapters that she has already passed along to her publisher.

“I’m sorry.” I mouthed to Lukas when I finally caught his eye.

He shook his head and gave me a reassuring smile. “No need.” He mouthed back, before leaning closer to press a soft kiss against my cheek. “I would’ve been disappointed if they would’ve welcomed me with open arms.” He whispered in my ear, so only I could hear.

“Yes, well, they could’ve been a little more subtle.”

Lukas winked at me over his coffee mug, and seamlessly joined the family conversation.

By the end of the breakfast, my father was eager to take him to the sitting room and show him the bookshelf we’ve built together when I was still in high school. “Be nice, dad!” I warned before the two most important men in my life disappeared at the end of the hallway.

I turned back to the third one, who was smirking smugly at me over the empty table. “Well, that went well!” Fitz observed.

I raised my brows at him. “Have you been paying attention!? That went catastrophically! He was grilled, and you were only adding wood onto the fire!”

Fitz laughed. “At least now you know that he’s not banging other chicks!”

I rolled my eyes. “You can hardly be sure of that!” I was playing it off because, in the off chance that Lukas wasn’t telling the truth, I didn’t want to get my heart broken.

Mom joined in, sliding back into the seat next to mine. “I’m pretty sure he wasn’t making that up, sweetheart. Lukas wouldn’t have sat through that for just anyone. He surely has better things to do than listen to your old man croaking on!” She rolled her eyes. “Besides, he seemed rather smitten with you.”

Her playful smile was infectious, and I found myself covering my blushing face. “Mom!”

“So.” Fitz leaned forward, folding his hands on the table in front of him. “He any good in the sack?”

“Jesus!” I cried out, laughing.

“No, not Jesus. But close enough!” Fitz winked.

“You can always tell that by the lady’s skin.” Mom added, mischievously. “And London is glowing!” She placed a warm hand on my forearm and leaned a tad closer. “You’ll have to give me some details of course. After all, you two are the inspiration for my book!”

I shook my head. “No way! You are all insane!” I pointed at both of them, rising from the table. “I love you both, but I’m going to go and rescue my-“ I bit down on my tongue. “-Lukas… From my equally mental father.”


“He’s not so bad after all.” My father told me as he hugged me goodbye. “For a little punk!” He added, much louder, so Lukas behind me could hear.

Thankfully, he only chuckled, while I added. “Rock, dad. He plays rock music.”

My father shook his head. “Jimi Hendrix… Now that was rock music. Kids these days…”

“I would love to play you some of his songs if you’d ever be interested coming to see my band in practice.” Lukas said confidently, knowing he could hit every note just about any song ever written.

“Well, we’ll certainly see about that.” My father nods. “Depending on how she feels about you after some time passes.”

I cleared my throat. “I don’t think we have to be worried about that.” I whispered under my breath, not meaning for either of them to hear.

“We’ll see you next weekend, sweetheart.” My mother came to give me a hug, before moving onto Lukas. “And you are welcome to join any time, dear. Bring those hot friends of yours too, will ya?” She grinned at him as she pulled back, before motioning to his bicep and mouthing ‘So buff!’ to me.

I rolled my eyes. My mother was undeniably related to me, in every way possible.

“I’ll see you all next week.” I waved goodbye to my family, as Lukas took my hand and started walking us toward his waiting car.

“You need a ride, sis?” Fitz asked, walking to his own vehicle.

Lukas was the one who turned around and answered for me. “I’ve got her.”

“You better!” Fitz warned, then laughed like the complete lunatic that he was.

There was no way Lukas wasn’t going to break up with me now. I was absolutely sure. No self-respecting man would ever put up with the insanity that was my family, on top of everything else Lukas had to deal with on a daily basis.

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